In evolutionary terms humans seem to have something a bit off – I mean clearly we’re doing something right as there are billions of us all over the place but as a species we sure seem to make repopulating hard for ourselves. Making the babies is probably the one area where we trump all other species – it’s very enjoyable and there is no need to sedate your partner beforehand like the female Ulysses butterfly who knocks her partner out to get knocked up, or eat them afterwards praying mantis style. But in all other aspects we could learn a thing or two from the animal kingdom.
Pregnancy for a start is a minefield of dangers and unpleasantness – from morning sickness, aches, pains, general fatness and the risk of some really serious side effects like pre-eclampsia and diabetes it’s not exactly an encouraging way to promote procreation. And runny eggs and soft cheese are prohibited – what cruel world is this?
When I was about 8 months pregnant and had waddled my dog down to the field for a run around one of the other dog owners pointed out her dog who was due to give birth around the same time as me – the pup was happily chasing balls and sticks and apart from a slight bulge in the belly was carrying no extra puppy weight. And she would go on to give birth to a litter of 5. I’m sure she rolled her eyes at me as I struggled to pick the ball up to throw for her.
And then labour. We don’t even call it childbirth any more – it’s labour – a word eliciting hard times, arduousness and suffering! Many a woman has uttered the phrase ‘never again’ after giving birth and it can be a truly traumatising experience for some and an utterly natural thing that is feared by a lot, if not all expectant mums. How did it get like this? I’ve heard that us moving from all fours to walking upright has narrowed the pelvis and our brains are now just too big to fit through. We’ve moved from primal beings to cultural ones more focused on the intellectual than the physical – and our brains are forever developing new medical technologies to override the physical symptoms – epidurals/c-sections/pethidine (this last one a personal favourite of mine)
Following 9 months of hard work, and then what could be many hours of hard labour it’s time to take a well earned break. HA! Now the real fun starts – we have to be the only species to give birth to such utterly cute but absolutely useless young. Apparently that’s why babies are so cute – so we don’t just kick them out of home when we realise what hard work they are and how they are going to be no help to us for at least another 18 years. I’ve also read that we would need to be pregnant for 21 months to give birth to a child that corresponded developmentally to the young of a chimapanzee. So giving birth to a toddler would result in much more useful babies but I’m thinking the brain size and pelvic issue would be a bit more noticeable.
So unlike kangaroos who give birth to teeny tiny jelly bean size Joeys straight into the pouch where they live quite happily before jumping out ready to go or Harp seals who give their little ones 12 days of their time before they are off to mate again us humans are in it for the long haul.
But maybe after all in some clever way this is the human race’s cleverest evolutionary move yet – let’s make the multiplying of our species that little bit unpleasant so only the mad or truly devoted will have a go more than once and save us from overpopulating our already overstretched planet. Maybe in a few thousand years we will have evolved so much that like seahorses it will be human males that bear children. Then we’ll be in real trouble. **
**Just kidding guys